Dr Sarah Lawson discusses the meditation practice of mindfulness, its benefits to everyday life, and how it can help you find a more relaxed and focused way of living.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a very simple form of meditation. It is defined as the intention to be present in the here and now, fully engaged with what is happening. It’s about being able to accept things as they are without judgement.
In the busy world that we live in it can be easy to rush through everyday life without noticing much of what is happening. For many of us, we spend so much of our time in “autopilot” without being fully aware or present. So often our mind is preoccupied elsewhere or caught up in our thoughts.
Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world more and understand ourselves better. It enables us to become more attuned of the thoughts and feelings that we experience and allows us to see how we can often become caught up in unhelpful thinking and thought patterns.
Taking a step back from our thoughts and observing them allows us to open our mind to what is happening both inside and outside ourselves. Being mindful allows us to create a head space to really think, see and experience what is happening in your life, as it happens. Right here, right now.
It’s about “waking up” and paying attention, on purpose, to what is happening in the here and now. Reminding yourself to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the world around you is the first step to mindfulness. Focusing in on everyday things for such as the food you are eating, the colour, the texture, how it smells and what flavours you taste, helps.
Scientific studies provide evidence for both the mental and physical benefits of mindfulness. Just as exercising regularly helps your body and mind become healthier and helps you feel good, regular mindfulness practice can prevent and treat chronic stress and other mental health difficulties such as anxiety and depression.
Living in a more mindful way also helps you feel less controlled by your thoughts, enhance relationships, and become more focused which, overall, leads to a healthier, happier, more fulfilled life.
Becoming more mindful
Here are three practical activities to help you to slow down and connect more with the here and now:
1. Connect with your senses
Slow down and acknowledge your surroundings. As you make the journey home from work, look around you. What do you notice now that you didn’t see before? When you get home, take five minutes to lie down on the sofa and listen to your favourite piece of music. Savour your evening meal by eating it slowly and really taste the flavours.
2. Let it go
Mindfulness is about observing without judgement and being compassionate to yourself. Next time you start to feel stressed or negative thoughts come to your mind, treat them as if they were clouds in the sky passing through, observe them as they drift past you, without holding on to them and let them go.
3. Listen to your body
When you’re stressed and uptight, your breathing becomes shallow and you hold tension in your muscles, such as your stomach or shoulders. Becoming aware of and turning your attention to each area of your body allows you to release some of that tension. Check in with your body; where are you holding on to tightness? Can you release some of the tension through your breathing?
Take the time to practice these mindful activities and notice the difference they make to your wellbeing. Through paying more attention to the present moment and accepting your individual thoughts, you can more fully experience and enjoy your life and improve your levels of happiness and well-being.
Dr Sarah Lawson is a registered clinical psychologist and personal development coach. She works individually with clients to help them become unstuck and achieve their personal goals. Contact Sarah through her website www.longstoryshortcoaching.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.